In the state of Utah, when it comes to determining the amount of child support payments the family court makes the final decision. Generally, the court will refer to the state's child support guidelines to order an appropriate amount. The guidelines are intended to make child support fair and uniform across different cases. However, there are some situations where the court can deviate from the schedule. Find out more about how child support amounts are determined.
Reviewing Child Support Guidelines
Child support guidelines were not always the norm. Years ago, the law empowered judges to use their total discretion in setting payment amounts. As you can guess, this led to wide discrepancies between similarly situated cases. Some deserving parents were not awarded any money at all, while others received excessive payments.
This became such a nationwide problem that the federal government had to create a solution. The federal government changed this inconsistent system by adding the Aid to Families with Dependent Children to the Social Security Act. The legislature also enacted the Child Support Enforcement Amendments to enhance the enforcement power of the states.
The guidelines as we know them today were actually fashioned out of the Family Support Act. This act required state governments to establish a set of guidelines for the court to follow. It also mandates that judges need to justify why (or why not) they choose to apply a certain guideline.
Utah's Use of the Guidelines
Utah has its own version of child support guidelines. This information can be found in the Utah Code beginning with section 78B-12-204. For example, section 78B-12-210 states that the guidelines are a rebuttable presumption used in establishing or modifying a support order. This section also dictates that the same guidelines are used in both temporary and permanent orders.
When deciding on an amount, the court looks to the adjusted gross incomes of each parent. The guidelines rely on a handy chart (found in section 78B-12-301) to find the level of support required by both parents. The number on the chart is multiplied by a parent's share (or percentage) of the monthly gross income. The resulting number, along with child custody factors, will determine how much is owed.
There are situations where the court will not use the state's guidelines. This occurs when there is shared custody of the child. It can also apply if the non-custodial parent does not make a certain amount of money. However, if a parent is found to be under-employed, the court may impute income to provide an adequate amount of support. It is best to discuss the details of this process with an experienced attorney practicing family law.
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